Formative Years

London & Oxford

London & Oxford Cont'd


Before the War

New Zealanders

The War Years

The War Years Cont'd

Heading Home


The Wordsworths & Others

Towards an Autobiography

Autobiographies & Verse


James & Others

Modern Years

The Final Years




Brasch always held the Irish poet W. B. Yeats in high regard: 'Here was the work of a living poet which sounded like sea surge in my ears and haunted me no less than that of any of the great dead.' Indeed, in 1939, when Yeats died, and coupled by the death of his sister Lesley, Brasch wrote gloomily: 'It was the worst time I had ever known.' Back in New Zealand, and prompted by J. C. Beaglehole, Brasch began thinking about 'an autobiographical sketch' that would later be his Indirections. While on board the Rangatira on 11 February 1947, Brasch started reading this copy of Yeats' Autobiographies, a work that he had recently purchased at a Manners Street bookshop.

W. B. Yeats, Autobiographies: Reveries over Childhood and Youth. London: Macmillan, 1926. Brasch PR5906.A312

It is understandable that Martin Buber (1878-1965), the Austrian-born Jewish philosopher, fell within the scope of Brasch's reading. Brasch was an intellectual, with a Jewish background. On 1 July 1947, while listening to Beethoven and Mozart on the 'wireless', Brasch read Buber's Mamre: Essays in Religion. Buber's treatment of the 'consecration of the body' struck 'a deep responsive chord' with Brasch and he wrote: 'I should like to begin by writing a poem on the resurrection of the body – a subject I made some notes about earlier in the year.' This book contains review references to the book written by Brasch. Such notes are a common occurrence within his books.

Martin Buber, Mamre: Essays in Religion. Melbourne ; London: Melbourne University Press in association with Oxford University Press, 1946. Brasch BM45.BW78

Many a book is started and not finished. Some get a second chance, when the reader, for a myriad of reasons, re-visits a book and eagerly reads it through to the end. One reason why Brasch re-visited Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture (1935) was that in June 1948, his friend Harry Scott had talked about the beginnings of a new culture. Brasch was energised by reading the book again: 'I woke this morning feeling differently about the future & myself; seeing the kind of life I lead as relative, not as 'life', tout court; & understanding that whatever one's change of circumstances satisfactions are still possible, even the more refined ones…'

Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1935. Brasch GN400.BE936 1935

Brasch fell in love with Italy on his first visit there. And poets Byron, Shelley, Browning, Swinburne and Matthew Arnold presented him with numerous Italian scenes and events from their works. This edition of Arnold's Poems was bought by Brasch in Dunedin in September 1931 and contains Arnold's Empedocles on Etna, a work that Brasch re-read on 13 February 1948. The setting was apt. Tramping in the splendour surrounding the Lake Wakatipu-Glenorchy area, he re-read it 'in the evening & wished to write songs for a New Zealand Callicles.'

Matthew Arnold, Poems: 1849-1867. London: Oxford University Press, 1921. Brasch PR4021.Q6 1921

'Virginia Woolf is dead; drowned; suicide. When I read this in the paper yesterday morning I was shocked & grieved as though I had lost some near & precious friend, & almost as if part of my own life was suddenly cut away. And indeed The Waves and To the Lighthouse were – are – part of me, in a way that few books have been.' So wrote Brasch in his journal for Friday, 4 April 1941. He was unsure of Woolf's Orlando and in December 1948, after re-reading it, he wrote: 'now I find [it] delightful – excepting the Pope Addison Swift section which seems forced & tedious.' This is one of the many Penguin paperbacks in Brasch's library.

Virginia Woolf, Orlando. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1942. Brasch PR6045.O72 O7 1942